Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Family Memory Box

I just love the scene in a book or movie where the leading character climbs into the attic and discovers an rusty biscuit tin or spies a wooden chest tucked into a corner. Her curiosity is aroused and she lifts the lid to discover a pile of old letters, photographs and cards. She starts to read them and finds they were love letters and correspondence from her grandfather to her grandmother during the war. She had intended to spend her time in the attic cleaning but this discovery changes all that - she spends the next hour or two reading the letters, captivated by all the memories of the lives of people who were special to her.

One day I would like one of my children or future grandchildren to find such a box. I do not have an attic but I do have a box - it is my family memory box and I have created it for my children and I hope they hold onto it to share with their children one day! It is likely that most of their memories will be digital, they will operate a mouse or touch a screen to bring up images from the past. This box is for the handwritten memories - the birthday cards, the valentines and anniversary cards and the messages of congratulations on the birth of children which were once attached to bouquets of flowers.

I would love to share with you my family memory box - to show you what I have chosen to keep. It is more than just a box of sentimental stuff - it is the story of my life!

Each bundle of cards represents an occasion in my life. There is a precious bundle for each member of my family.

Our wedding cards are tied in white sheer ribbon, the doves on the ring once decorated one of the tiers of my wedding cake. The cake of course is not preserved but my marriage is and the memories of the people who witnessed us declare our vows before God are contained in this bundle of cards.

The bundle of cards tied in red ribbon are cards sent to me from friends on special occasions. I have tied on a tag for the person - on my children's tags I have written out their name and its meaning. There are also cards from my children for Mother's Day and valentines and anniversary wishes from my husband.

And an article on a restaurant where we enjoyed a romantic dinner together during a weekend trip to Armidale in New England - the New England in New South Wales, Australia that is! I only keep menus or leaflets from places that really make an impression on me and the 'Bishops Court' certainly did - we enjoyed lamb served with a mint pea puree - so delectable I can still taste the memory! Everything was just perfect - the meal, the service, the setting and of course just being with my husband - we rarely receive the opportunity to go out, just the two of us, so when we do it is very special and it is nice to go somewhere lovely.

Another lovely place I have fond memories of is Oak Tree Cottage near Blenheim in the South Island of New Zealand. It is quite a number of years ago that I had the pleasure of visiting this homely gift shop in the setting of an early colonial cottage. Everything was for sale from the pottery on the kitchen dresser in the dining room to embroidered towels and linens in the bedrooms and one room was even turned into a Christmas room. I was in heaven and it took some persuasion on the part of my husband to get me to leave so we could continue our trip - especially to drag me out of that Christmas room! I'd love to know if Oak Tree Cottage is still there should we ever go back for a trip to the South Island! I'd love to pay a return visit.

Another reminder of a home is this roll of a wallpaper border. Remember when borders were all the rage in the early 1990's! This border is the one I chose for the living room of our first home. It is by Laura Ashley and it not only brings back memories of my first home but also my favourite clothing and homewares shop. As a teenager I would wander around the Laura Ashley store sighing at all the floaty, feminine dresses that I could not afford and dreaming of one day having a 'Laura Ashley' home! I still have my Laura Ashley white lace napkins - a wedding gift and another touch of England that graced my table when we first began to open up our home and offer hospitality as a married couple! So if you are thinking of putting together a memory box remember to keep swatches of fabrics, wallpapers, even the paint colour you chose when you decorated your home. In years to come they will bring back sweet memories of home!

These Oriental inspired cards are from my daughter's bundle - they will always remind me of her passion for Asia. I now have some paintings to add to her bundle - ones she has completed at her Mandarin class where her teacher who is an artist is also teaching her Chinese brushwork!

The ticket is from the first sports game she attended, a rugby union match in Christchurch. I will not mention the result on the day for the All Blacks lost - she will not remember it, she was just a baby but I do, for I have breastfed babies in some amazing places - on the top of a mountain in New Zealand for instance, but the embankment in a sports stadium packed with rugby supporters was the most unusual! No one noticed but the fans around us who had consumed a beer or two were rather taken with my daughter's bright blue eyes and started singing 'Baby's got blue eyes' at the tops of their voices! It was just hilarious! I have told my daughter this story - remember to do this too - tell your children stories from their childhood.

Do you keep every single drawing your children doodle, paint or crayon? I don't but I have preserved some special artworks in family newsletters sent out at Christmas. This drawing is from 2001. It is actually the classical singer from New Zealand, Hayley Westenra, drawn by my daughter after we attended one of her concerts in Timaru. She wore a blue dress that sparkled so much and bedazzled my little girl that she insisted on adding glitter to her original painting that this drawing is copied from! Reading the family newsletters from years gone by is lots of fun. In this one I was letting friends know about our decision to move to Australia and apparently, my favorite TV show back then was 'Monarch of the Glen'!

There are only a few items in my box from my childhood and they are the only possessions I have to remind me of my grandparents. The book 'Mary's Bible' was given to me on my eighth birthday by my grandfather. He died when I was ten . I loved this true story and have read it to my older children. I'm going to read it to all of my children and hope they read it to their children one day!

The postcards are from 1908 and were written to my grandmother or possibly her sister, they begin 'My Dear Miss Fawcett'. So formal, so polite, so beautiful! I am looking forward to finding out more about the life of my grandmother as we research our family history but these cards give just a little glimpse into her life. From the content I have realized that she was a regular correspondent. One card is a real photograph of people that she obviously knew, as the writer lets her know who is sitting where in the shot which shows a group of people enjoying a picnic in Edwardian England. The picture is fading but the dresses and the detail of the magnificent hats is still evident and in the days before paper cups and our throwaway society, they drank from china cups on the grounds where they 'lunched'.

Oh how I wish I had more letters and postcards to read from days gone by!
It is why I am keeping my box of memories and written correspondence is something to treasure in an age when hand written letters are becoming a fading memory replaced by electronic communications and social networking sites. I will admit Facebook is a useful tool for finding old friends. I had lost touch with my penfriend in Germany when she moved cities but she found me on Facebook. But when we were young people, this is how we kept in touch!

She may be surprised to know that I kept the letters and photographs she sent to me. We have met on three occasions, my first overseas trip was to visit her in the beautiful city of Heidelberg.

I only open up my Family Memory Box once in a while but I always enjoy reliving each moment in time. I will be tying up another little bundle of cards soon but for now they still decorate my window in the family room. By the way, my little man is still smiling! In fact he just loves to smile, laugh and communicate with me - that will be a memory that I will always want to hold onto; the cards and the hospital bracelets will go into the box but the smiles go straight to the heart!

The bon bon is the one I created for his first Christmas. I do not have the time to stitch elaborate cross stitch samplers these days but the bon bon is an expression of me and how I love to craft at Christmas time and make lovely things for my family. I'm hoping this one stays intact as a special memory of our family Christmas in 2009.

If you don't have a Family Memory Box and if you do not have the time or the inclination to scrapbook, I hope this post inspires you to consider creating a memory box. Just remember to choose a big strong box to hold all those precious memories. I found my box at Aldi for just $10! The lid is going back on for now but one day in the future perhaps a son or daughter will lift the lid and discover not just bundles of cards and letters tied up with ribbon but rather relationships, love, memories, treasured times of family life and know how much they were loved and cherished - for the real treasure is the person, not the possession.

With Love and Joy,



SF said...

Ann, I LOVE this post!! I really really want to do this. At the moment I have kept lots of memories but they're all over the place. I love the attic in Little Women, when Jo goes up and looks through Beth's box. So special.
Would you believe I went shopping for a birthday gift for Mum last week, and found the Jane Austin's Sewing book you blogged about?! I purchased it for Mum and she loves it. I'm secretly hoping she sews me the bonnet. ;) (not likely)...

About to send you an email.... :)

Elinor said...

Just a lovely idea... I have a box of memories that I have kept for my children - a pile of 'memories'from when I started dating their Daddy. Also there cards, letters, poems etc, etc... but I love the idea you have of bundling them and wrapping a ribbon around each bundle with a tag attached. So beautiful... thanks for sharing

Molly Betsy @ Star Cottage said...

The movie that comes to mind for me, is Little Women, when Joe goes throught Beth's trunk and finds the pretend newspapers they used to write when they were younger.
I have a few of these in our attic, one for each family member. My mom saved so much, that it inspired me to do so as well. Memories, What treasures they truly are.

Fruitful Harvest said...

What a great post~
We or should I say, "I" have keepsake boxes for each of the kids and I also have a 3inch binder to hold cards,pictures,art ect.

I pray all is well with you! Hug the baby for me!

Peace and Love,

A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

SIGH!!!!! Ann how wish My Mum had such a box....I do for my kids In fact a whole camphor chest of Memories.
But I am so very sentimental I would love to have had a lid I could've lifted,Though Once in awhile I do look at what I collected for my Babes 3 and just love it!
Gee and to think your little guy is a grinner already! How quick did that two or so months go by?

Jen said...

I also love the stories like Little Women and Anne of Green Gables where there were boxes in the attic. For each of my boys I would start a journal as soon as I could after finding out I was pregnant to record thoughts in for them.

I continue those after they are born with their birth story, stories about their development and love letters. (Love letters are my way of telling them all the advice I would want them to know if I were to die. For some reason this is important to me, to know that I have told them I love them, and what I love about them, just in case I am not here to tell them.)

We have also bought the local paper and a big city paper such as The Australian or Sydney Morning Herald on the day they are born. It is so fun to pull out those old newspapers to see the front headlines and all the other bits of history. Old newspapers under lino and in drawers have always been a favourite of mine.

So glad your little one is doing well. I think our babies get more beautiful the more we have. We know how to ignore the icky bits and remember the good.

Best wishes
Jen in NSW

myletterstoemily said...

what a lovely, thoughtful gesture of love for your
famiy. they will cherish all those beautifully tied
bundles of joy.

i have saved all my grandma's letters and all of my
husband's letters when we were in college.

small world, our daughter is studying in heidelberg
this spring. she says it is the sweetest little fairy
tale town.


Renata said...

Hi Ann
What a lovely box of beautiful memories you have there - & a wonderful idea. I have also saved various things for my children & put in their memory boxes, but I like the idea of doing up a box with things from my life - how I would love to find one from any of my grandparents - what a world it would open up!
Have a great evening - look after that beautiful family of yours.
God bless
Renata :)

Camille said...

Beautiful! How lovely that you are treasuring all these sentimental things up for your children ~ they will appreciate it I am sure! :)

Blessings to you!

P.S. I hopped over from Farmgirl Cyn's nice to "meet" you. :)

Unknown said...

What a great idea! Such pretty packaging that makes you want to dive in, whether it's for me or you!

Popped over from Farm girl Cynthia.

GardenOfDaisies said...

Ann, I have my scrapbook that I made while I was a girl. And a scrapbook of my wedding to DH. And then I have a memory box for each of my two children, with birth announcements, artwork, favorite school papers, class pictures, report cards, birthday cards, letters from their grandparents, and other little memories of their childhood. At some point I will probably add their baby journals to their boxes. (I kept a little book of first words, when they walked, who came to their first birthday party, when their first tooth came in, etc...) When they are finally out of school and settled into a house of their own, it will be time to take their memory box to them.


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